Saving a Southwestern Archive

$8,255 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 74 people in 49 months

The above photographs show the designer and master mind for the Chicago and Saint Louis World's Fair. H. Jay  Smith. The building of Battle Rock Mtn and some of the activities at the fair.
The construction of the Cliff dwellers exhibit at the Saint Louis World's fair has eluded us for a long time but here is one of the few photographs found of that exhibt.

Thank John Richardson for his dexterity in maneuvering through ebay.

John Fremont signature initials from Pipestone National Monument while on the Nicolette Expedtion
Winter on Highway 145 1956 Fred Blackburn on hood

The H. Jay Smith  Exploring Expedition of Battle Rock Mountain in Chicago 1893. Fournier paintings and Wetherill Artifacts. 

Broken Flute Cave Pithouse before excavation. Bernheimer 1930

Fred Blackburn and Vivian Stanley our mentor and host in Northwestern Arizona

Jefferson County Open School Documenting Northeastern Arizona

Ajax slide after hitting the Idarado Mill in Telluride 1958 Walt Honeycutt and Jack Pera in photograph

Jefferson County Open School at Harvard, documenting the Kidder and Guernsey discoveries in Marsh Pass Arizona

San Miguel first settlement at Telluride Winter 1949
1930's Sheep Herder Dendroglyph Stoner Mesa. Fewer and Fewer remain because of climate change. 

Navajo Petroglyph Arizona. 

The view from the Window documenting inscription in site northwestern Arizona
My name is Fred Blackburn.  The past 35 years I have been documenting historic inscriptions [Grafitti] in the southwest, primarily with high school youth from Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood Colorado.

We have been co-permit holders of an archaeological permit to document historic inscriptions and interview elders on the Navajo Reservation.

The purpose of which enables us to follow the routes of early expeditions. Expeditions include first archaeological, Spanish and military expeditions to the southwest.

I have been privileged to have written three books from the information gained from research on these efforts: Cowboys and Cave Dwellers, co-authored with Dr. Ray Williamson, published by the School of American Research in 1997; The Wetherill’s Friends of Mesa Verde, published by the Durango Herald Small Press in 2007, as a gift to the Centennial effort of Mesa Verde and National Park. The same year I completed the text for a coffee table photography book by Klaus Mrocynski entitled “Sacred Places of the Southwest”. I have published numerous monographs and gray papers in addition.

Two portions of the years of research have been funded. The Wetherill/Grand Gulch partially through private donors and a second as part of the Save Americas Treasures Grant at Mesa Verde National Park.

Our method of research is now termed “Reverse Archaeology” defined as: “The linking of items in museums with their original homes” and in conjunction with the National Park Service developing the methodology for the documentation of Historic Inscriptions.

I have not been funded or associated with any university through my entire research career and now find that my aging is limiting how much time I have left to complete the many writing tasks remaining, as well as find and fund the transfer of 1000’s of documents to a proper research facility. Working to provide the bills is now detracting from completing a life-long work to record.

I will require your help in making this happen.

Donors will be kept informed of my progress.  

The following projects are in limbo at the moment. Some writing and research has been completed on all but much editing and input is needed to make them a quality and accurate presentation.

1. Write up [Potential Book or Books] of our work in Prayer Rock. This was an eleven-year project with multiple themes and is the most complex venture to attack. [Portions Publishable especially with Reverse Archaeology] Four preliminary chapters are complete and a book proposal is in process. DRAFT OF BOOK PROPOSAL IN PROGRESS

2. Sniders Well/Yucca House publication is complete to start a second draft of writing. The slide show has provided the basis for the outline. A full report and possible publication is under negotiation with the possible co-authorship of an archaeological treatise by Donna Glowacki.

3. Archive preservation, documentation and digitizing of historic photographs include H.J. Smith exploring expedition, Hayden Survey, History of Ophir and Telluride, World Columbian Exposition at Chicago and Saint Louis. Gifts from work completed with John Richardson of Southern Illinois University. Digitizing and organization of historic photographs stored on computer. PREPERATION AND METHODOLOGY FOR ARCHIVAL QUALITY BEING ESTABLISHED

4. Writing Projects to meet permit requirements from the Navajo Tribe [Some of these projects contain too much sensitive information to publish and will only be presented to the Navajo Historical Cultural Preservation Department as per our permit agreement with Windowrock] Includes: Analyses and research of inscriptions documented at: Long House in Long House Valley, Marsh Pass, Bubbling Springs, Upper Long Canyon, Keet Seel Canyon. Research is completed with an analyses of inscriptions, expeditions and archaeological sites yet to be completed.

5. Completion of the transcriptions of the Kidder and Guernsey Journals [Owe this project to Harvard [14 volumes] [Publishable] Final edits on the last of the volumes remain as needed for completion and sent to Harvard, and usable for final research in Marsh Pass, Long House Valley.  COMPLETED

6. Inscription History of Mancos Canyon and The Ute Mountain Tribal Park. [Early data gathering into a very rough publication that has been utilized in several publications, but a thoroughly edited version never completed.

7. Organization of all archives in preparation for archival storage in as yet an undefined institution[s].

Monument Valley mittens 1955
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Todays message serves as a blog. I noted before the winters archive work was shutting down for the year. I have happier looks from my wife regarding the cleanliness of the man cave. We are in good shape to move forward next year.

The news from here is that two big inscription documentation projects have dropped into my lap {I of course resisted heavily}.

Strawman Panel in the Sandstone Canyon Fork of Yellow Jacket is also placed on hold until this fall. We have reviewed the work and continue with the Mesa Verde Manual of documentation even though the site was documented by Doug Bowman and Four Corners School and recently by the Polish Krakow group, ours will serve as another layer of information. We will finish the final check for errors, interview a number of individuals and families regarding the role of those who signed in on the camp along the Morrison Trail. Vince and I are submittting grants that will allow us to tell the stories of Ute and Anglo history presented on this historical panel.

The Big News is I have landed a cooperative venture with the National Park Service in the Inscription Documentation of 23 Intact rooms in Aztec National Monument. 24 if you count the Beams that Earl Morris removed and placed in his home that is now the visitors center. This is a long-term project that we hope to initiate starting May 4, once again this is grant dependent and our start up contract will allow us ten days until a much larger grant is able to be placed.

I hope to use interns and volunteers throughout this process and not add to the files of incomplete documentation and write ups that are now an impt part of the archive work. Getting older and wiser developing a plan as we go so it does not remain a yet incomplete report.

A cooperative effort with Jefferson County Open School has seen the completion of our investigation of Dowizhibeto Canyon in Northeast Arizona. That report will soon be submitted to the local chapter House in Kayenta and Windowrock. Yet another one checked off the bucket list thanks to staff and students of Jefferson County Open School.

Thanks again for all your years of support and I will keep you posted on our progress with both Inscription fronts.
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The past month has been a busy one. I am wrapping up the winters work on the archives. The most recent work includes several data bases which can be shared and they have had a lot of use in the last few weeks. Volker Laska, David Roberts, Morgan Sjogren were here for interviews and consult on the latest editions.

I just completed over 1000 copies from newspapers and other sources which are yet to be entered in the system. Titles of those completed or in progress are:

Fred Blackburn Letters, correspondence and articles: 1973----1000 entries so far the above 1000, plus other documents yet to be entered and filed.

Archaeological Vandalism File: Hard copies and larger manuscripts only. The above files have many more examples of what has occurred and not occurred since 1973. Approximately 100 items entered.

Research Files 1 and 2. This will be the largest of all the files when complete. Over 100 files are ready for input in the data base and approximately 400 more remain to be processed.

96 CD files of photographs completed by Chuck Haspells over the years of work in Marsh Pass, Long House Valley, Inscription House, Keet Seel, Dowizhibetoe, Bubbling Springs, Long Canyon, Betatakin Canyon and other areas. There are approximately 10,000 photographs of our work in the canyon. These are in the final process of entering and double checking accuracy. The larger concern is the best storage method to keep the data alive on the CD's. Looking for the best options.

There are other smaller single topic files for specific events.

Connie Massingale stopped by at a critical time and we made some great headway in refiling documents selected by David Roberts for his latest work. This work is so easy to make errors that it is a pleasure to have that second set of eyes as a double check.

I am now turning to the writing of the biographies of the Inscriptions found on Strawman Panel.

I will be lucky to have one or two interns this summer from Jefferson County Open School. They will be able to help, we hope, on the completed documentation for Strawman Panel, and add more entries into the Excell spread sheets.

I am at least two years, winters away, from completing this task to completion. I have no idea where all this stuff came from. I have to ask myself whether this will serve anyones interest, in an electronic age.

Thank you all for your support and please remember until I find the final archive placement. Information is here for you to use in your work. The good news is we can find and put our hands on the copies.

My greatest pleasure is in sharing the use. let me know if there is a better way to share with all ofyou.

Thanks once again for that financial help. Been burning through the paper and the printers.
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The continuing bad weather is a boon to working like a monk in a cave. I am grateful for both the water and the opportunity to keep me out of the sunshine.

There is too much here to share the entire documentation. Rather if you have specific interests or questions that are of immediate concern I would be happy to work with you providing that information.

I have completed, to this point, nearly a 1000 entries of correspondence, articles, fliers and publications hidden in boxes and files beginning in 1973 with my first job as a ranger/general in Natural Bridges National Monument.

I have found many documents pertaining to my friends, cohorts and the challenges of southeastern, Utah. I pretty much kept everything! Why, I have no flipping idea, but I do hope they will help in not only understanding the western cultures but also the events of History I and others experienced.

Some of the topics include: The early ranger days at Grand Gulch, Administrative Documents, Management recommendation, antiquities cases, early reports on exploration of the canyon systems. Also included are the Chainings of state sections as a reaction to Wilderness proposals, Local task forces attempting to reach an understanding and compromise on archaeological vandalism, development of the first federal raids in the four corners in 1984, the repercussions and the movement toward the prevention and increased law enforcement and the publications printed during that time period. The early years of developing Crow Canyon Interpretive services as we helped generate that institution, and the White Mesa Institute as well as the Wetherill Grand Gulch Project.

I feel all of the years present documents to aid the litigation of the Bears Ears.

Unfortunately, I also see the not so gradual deterioration of the abilities to work with local populations. I believe this may be also historical and it is a sad day to see that the wall has been built.

Continual printer head problems have prevented me from copying the many articles I am scanning.

I have also learned. "Never piss off a historian". Especially when they have a lot of documents!
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Every once in awhile your are reminded why you spend those hours sorting, labeling and documenting these tons of historical documents. You really have to wonder if anyone well every use them or care.

Today I entered the world of Jim Mike, Mike's Boy, Old Mike. He was my first venture into the mysteries of Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge in 1973. A story with telling I hope for all of you.

1973 I entered the world of southeastern, Utah at Natural Bridges National Monument. A career that was short but well lived. I became fascinated with the first care-taker of Natural Bridges, Zeke [Ezekiel Johnson]. Zeke was a care taker of the Natural Bridges during the same era as John Wetherill at Navajo National Monument and Earl Morris at Aztec. Zeke was rumored to have had his own way of interpretation and handling all those folks who visited and wanted to dig up a "mummy" or artifacts. He kept one cave special with a mummy within and would divert those folks to that location so they could have their fun. He would claim it back and rebury it in the process keeping the myth alive! True or not, through the family of Zeke Johnson I was introduced to Jim Mike, a Pahute Man originally from Navajo Mountain, he sort of hung out around Blanding. Zeke Johnson wished to return to his family near Kanab and it was Jim Mike who provided him the short cuts across southeastern, Utah to reach his home as well as teach Zeke the trails and routes in that remote country between the San Juan River and the Colorado River.

Zeke's family, the Lymans, told me that Jim Mike was very much alive and part of the White Mesa Ute Community. They recommended George Hurst as a good man to introduce me to that little known relic of human history. I jumped at the chance. This was 1973,
and I find myself not believing that we actually had a local dialogue with those residents of Blanding who indeed love their local history. A fact not lost on me today as this would likely be impossible at this point in time.

George and I made two trips to visit Jim Mike. I was able to photograph the two men together, both old gentleman of the landscape. Jim Mike was in his home, the door slightly ajar amidst several dogs who were not pleased with our presence.

Jim had his red bandana around his head and his trusty tennis shoes. His eyesight was going and a fly continually harassed his right eye. His presence was awesome and I can feel it today.

Jim asked George who in the heck I was and he indicated a ranger from Natural Bridges who wished to talk to him and he waved with a hand in such a way that he would acommodate the intrusion.

A few months later Zeke Scher, a writer for Empire Magazine, walked into Natural Bridges National Monument. I believe to do a story on the Natural Bridges. In our discussion I told him about Jim Mike and his role in the "Great Race to Rainbow Bridge". I would later learn that Jim had heard the blasting of the Hole in the Rockers in 1879 and went to see what all the noise was about.

The true story may never be told but Nasja Begay and Jim Mike were the guides . Nasja guiding for John Wetherill and Byron Cummings while Jim was the guide for Douglas and there-in lies the battle of which I really do not care.

The Point of all this was that Jim Mike was an original member of that party and was still alive. To honor him seemed only proper.

Zeke took on the challenge and over the next several years I followed the story of Jim Mike. I kept every article I could to tell his story.

Long and short of it is that he created such a stink on why Jim Mike was not recognized that I had to step back as criticism of the National Park Service soon became hot and heavy.

He eventually had his plaque placed alongside that of Nasja Begay and was provided $50 in arrears for his back pay, along with a Pendleton Blanket. He and his son Billy Mike were transported by the NPS as they finally bowed to Public Pressure and recognized that Jim was part of something Special. I include a few photographs to share with you this most unique individual.

Jim would become a celebrity of Blanding for a time. Grand Marshal of the Parade, a point to rally around for his long history in San Juan County.

Jim's age at his death was reported to be 107 years old. In October of 1977.

The sad part of all of this is what we could have learned from this man by an interview with a translator. Most all of what he had seen has been left in the fog of Navajo Mountain.
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Read a Previous Update
Bill Harris
48 months ago

I have known Fred since 1984, and have shared many unique experiences with him, and his band of citizen researchers. His work is a critical link to our past, and what we love about the Southwest. As a side note to highlight the my high regard for Fred's work, my Facebook profile photo was taken in 1989 near Redman Cave in Grand Gulch on one of our inscription recording expeditions.

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$8,255 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 74 people in 49 months
Created June 11, 2015
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Barbara Stagg
1 month ago

Fred's work is vitally important. No one else is doing what he is, and has been doing for many, many years.

Bill Lipe
3 months ago

This is a unique and important project for understanding the history of Southwestern archaeology

Bob Hibschman
4 months ago
Ann and Dave Phillips
4 months ago
Terry Tice
4 months ago
Paul Cleary
4 months ago

I respect Fred's work and realize how important this work is.

Laura Garcia
5 months ago
Mike Garcia
5 months ago

A very wothwhile project. Been hearing good things about Fred for years.

John & Susie Mansfield
5 months ago

...just trying to keep Fred safe is his cozy home.

16 months ago
Bill Harris
48 months ago

I have known Fred since 1984, and have shared many unique experiences with him, and his band of citizen researchers. His work is a critical link to our past, and what we love about the Southwest. As a side note to highlight the my high regard for Fred's work, my Facebook profile photo was taken in 1989 near Redman Cave in Grand Gulch on one of our inscription recording expeditions.

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